Exit, stage left

Written by Cumulo Nimbus

When Brad first came to work in our warehouse, he said he wouldn’t stay long. He plays piano, and was expecting a call from the Slug Flats Symphony any day. I think Mulroney was still prime minister.

Brad was never a bad employee, simply complacent. He despised lifting heavy packages. He wouldn’t drive the forklift, because the backrest is vinyl. And he refused to open cartons, saying it was murder on his nails. For every winter, however, there is a spring. You could have knocked me over with a baby grand when Brad came to me last month and said he was leaving.

“Did you get the call?” I asked. “Not yet,” he said. “I’m going back to school to study political science. I need a job with a future. My partner is a ceramic artist, and you know how impractical they can be.”

“Too bad about Brad,” said Wanda, our GM, when the news got out. “Of course, you’re going to do an exit interview with him?” “I’m too busy,” I said. “What’s an exit interview?”

“It’s a management tool that gives you important insights into what’s going on in your business,” replied Wanda. “Departing employees often provide honest and candid feedback.”

“What did you do?” I asked. “Swallow the Harvard Business Review?” “At least I read it,” she said.

I was dubious of the comments I’d get from an employee who’d already punched out mentally, but Wanda can be very persuasive when she’s right. So, a few days later I met with Brad in our boardroom to talk about his impressions of Nimbus Co. “I’m not sure I approve of this,” said Brad as we shook hands. “You haven’t asked my opinion of anything in six years, so why start now?”

At least I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about his candour and honesty. “Um, that would be the job of your immediate supervisor,” I stammered. “Wirtz never asks for opinions,” said Brad. “He has too many of his own already.”

“I know for a fact that he has sat down with you twice a year for performance reviews,” I shot back. “Wirtz’s reviews consist of two parts,” said Brad. “Here’s why the work we do in the warehouse is so important. And here’s why you’re not getting a bigger raise.”

“If you felt neglected, why didn’t you speak up?” I asked. It was my last-ditch attempt to avoid responsibility for the picture that Brad was painting. Of course, it didn’t work.

“I suppose I should have,” said Brad. “But I never saw any sign that you knew anything about the warehouse team. You were always in the front office.”

“Er, I guess I have been pretty busy lately putting out fires,” I said. “Thanks for reminding me of what’s important.”

“If this is so important, why was my goodbye party catered by Tim Horton?” asked Brad.

“Um, good point,” I conceded.

I looked at the list of questions I’d prepared. “How good is Nimbus Co. at recognizing employee accomplishment?” “Do you have any concerns about our commitment to employee development?” “Which of the following words best describes your opinion of our compensation policies: a) fair; b) linked to employee performance; c) above average.” I now realized that an exit interview is not a hug.

So I threw my question sheet aside and asked, “What else is going on here I should know about?” “I think you should do something about the restrooms,” he said. “And why haven’t you cracked down on the sexist posters on the guys’ lockers?” “Hold on,” I said. “Let me write this all down.”

“You should also know that a lot of people are unhappy about the vacation policy. And I don’t know why you haven’t redecorated this boardroom. It’s dark and gloomy.”

I’m not proud of what happened next, but a man can only take so much. I’m a good employer, I thought. People like Brad, who have never risked their own capital for a dream, can never understand the choices involved in running a business. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much.”

I was about to kick Brad out when he looked at me and said, “I really admire you for taking my problems so seriously. It won’t take much to make Nimbus a good place to work again.”

“Um, er, I appreciate your candour, Brad,” I stammered. “Well,” he replied, “it’s hard for employers to avoid complacency. But you know what Duke Ellington said, ‘A problem is a chance for you to do your best’.”

Read more of Cumulo’s particular brand of wisdom.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com